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UK broadband speeds plummet at 9pm as surfing Brits strain services

25th September 2014 Print

Red-eye surfers enjoy considerably faster broadband speeds than those who follow the crowd and use the internet at peak times, according to new broadband speed test data from The data reveals the impact of traffic and times of day on broadband speeds in the UK’s largest towns and cities, and shows that the busy evening hours are usually the slowest time of the day to go online.

Across the UK, broadband download speeds are at their fastest at 5am, averaging 18.1 Mbps, but drop by over a fifth (21%) by 9pm - when most people want to go online - to 14.3 Mbps.

The study, based on more than three million consumer speed tests over the past 12 months, reveals that, of the cities with the biggest variations between 5am and 9pm speeds, Manchester (19.2 Mbps) and Birmingham (18.8 Mbps) enjoy the fastest evening peak time surfing, while Aberdeen (7.9 Mbps), Exeter (9.9 Mbps) and Hull (9.9 Mbps) experience the slowest.

The cities of Exeter, Chester and Bath have something other than their Roman roots in common. Out of the largest UK towns and cities, they allsee the biggest drop offs between peak and off-peak hours, with speeds more than 50% slower at 9pm that at 5am.

Of the UK’s most densely populated towns and cities, Glasgow residents see the most consistent broadband speeds between peak and off-peak times of day. There, average speeds at both 5am and 9pm are 15.4 Mbps.

The capital cities of London, Cardiff and Belfast show big discrepancies in peak and off-peak broadband speeds. London and Cardiff speeds drop by around a third between 5am and 9pm while Belfast fares slightly better, dropping by almost a fifth.

The findings are supported by consumer research by Almost seven in 10 (69%) Brits say they have noticed their broadband is slower than usual at certain times of the day, with more than half (53%) saying this happens between 8pm and 10pm.

People say this has affected their leisure time (45%), has prevented them from watching films, TV or listening to music (43%) and has stopped them from working (38%). More than a fifth (22%) say they have lost an online auction due to slow broadband, while 17% say they have missed out on the best online shopping deals during the sales. More than one in 10 (11%) say they have missed out on cheap flights or train tickets due to a slow connection.

Overall, more than a quarter (26%) of consumers believe they have lost out financially due to their broadband slowing down to the tune of £159 each – so it’s hardly surprising that this has caused more than half (52%) to consider leaving their current broadband provider.

Ewan Taylor-Gibson, broadband expert at, says: “You might not be a morning type but your broadband is - no coffee required. It won’t come as a surprise that your internet is bright eyed and bushy tailed in the early hours when it’s not groaning under the weight of evening demand. What will surprise many people is by how much speeds drop.

“Given that most of us want to use our home broadband in the evening, it may be concerning to find out that the speed advertised when we sign up won’t necessarily be the speed we get at peak hours.

“Dragging yourself out of bed at red-eye o’clock just to download a film is not a practical option but, at the very least, it’s worth running an online speed test at home to check that you are getting the best possible service available in your area. If you think you could do better, consider shopping around for a new deal. People may also find that speedier fibre broadband is worth investing in - particularly for households with multiple connected devices. Just 44% of people think they can get fibre broadband – but in actual fact it’s now available to almost three quarters of the population.”

Test your speed at